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Why 'team fit' questions are bad for diversity

Culture fit questions, in interviews, have been around for a long time. I can't recall the number of times I have been asked officially and unofficially, or just volunteered information (because of an unwritten, implicit expectation) of whether a candidate will likely 'fit in' around here, but it happened. Often. During recruitment.

Culture fit questions have become the norm.

If you're using culture fit questions then you need to start questioning the assumptions that come with it. By questioning the assumptions we can begin dismantling what has become the norm.

While perceived 'team fit' may mean less time to acclimatise new appointees - easier to coach, easier to mould, and then there is the underlying assumption that people who fit in are likely to stay longer - it actively acts against the goals of diversity.

Of course there are competency questions… but when you have two equal candidates who happen to look very different from each other, it might come down to 'well… person X will fit in better then person Z?' By the way person Z might be black, brown or some other flavour of individual.

Culture fit questions validate hiring decisions - meaning managers ultimately hire those who are more likely to fit in, because they 'look like us', 'sounds like us', therefore, probably 'think like us'.

Yet diversity is not about sameness. It is about celebrating difference. We know diversity is good for business health, it makes sound financial sense. Yet interview practices don't change. If we value diversity in the workplace then we need to actively ask interview questions that demonstrate that 1) diversity is welcome and 2) diversity is valued.

Culture fit questions are ultimately about fitting into the workplace easily, someone who fits in will likely go with the flow and not present a challenge. If they don't present a challenge how do you progress? How do you innovate? How do you reach new customers and clients?

Diversity brings with it tension and positive conflict - teams that discuss, debate, exchange ideas and opinions are better placed to innovate.

So perhaps we also need to re-think workplace culture?

Perhaps the real challenge is how to create a workplace culture that truly values diversity so that culture fit questions are about celebrating difference and not sameness.

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